There is no franchise — possibly in all of sports — that has the legacy of legends the Los Angeles Lakers possess.
Making it even more amazing is these weren’t just legends of their time, but true all-time greats. Jerry West is the NBA logo, Wilt Chamberlain and Shaquille O’Neal are the two most dominant centers ever, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the NBA’s all-time leading scorer with Kobe Bryant third on that list and James currently fourth.
It simply means something different to put on the purple and gold of the Lakers and James feels that weight and pressure every time he puts on the jersey as he revealed in the latest episode of HBO’s The Shop:
“No question about it. No question about it. I put on that Laker jersey, I automatically start thinking about Kareem, Magic, Elgin, Jerry, Wilt… you know all of them… Kobe, Shaq. Soon as I put that on, I get a sense of pride like, ‘Alright [expletive], you better hold your end of the bargain up.'”
It is something that has been said by the likes of James and Bryant that everyone isn’t cut out to be a Laker. The attention and pressure that comes with playing for this franchise is unlike anything else in the NBA. Every move, every rumor, every comment that comes from the team or any member on it is exponentially bigger and everyone can’t handle that.
And this isn’t the case for only All-Star players as role players get the same treatment as well. Nick Young became a national star because of his antics while with the Lakers, even though he had been doing those things for years. And the rise in prominence of Alex Caruso is undoubtedly tied to the fact that he wears the purple and gold.
However, the fact remains the pressure on Lakers players is far greater than anything else and James has embraced the responsibility that comes with it.
He has followed in the footsteps of the Lakers greats and if he brings them another championship, there is no doubt a James jersey will hang in the Staples Center rafters right next to the rest of them.